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How Much Does a First Offense DUI Cost?

It's more than you might think ...

First Offense DUI Cost

Most people pay less than $20 for a 12-pack of beer. That's more than sufficient, if the beer is drunk over a few hours, to fuel you with 1600 calories (assuming it's light beer) and to raise your blood alcohol way, way above .08%—the borderline for committing a DUI in all fifty states. In other words, the cost to get arrested for a DUI is less than $20. But what's the cost of dealing with a DUI arrest? 

The Cost of a DUI

First offense, no injury, no damage. For our purposes we'll consider a first offense only and we'll presume you're lucky enough not to have hit anyone or caused property damage. Our conclusion is that if you're arrested, you should expect to pay somewhere between $5,000 and $12,000 with the largest cost typically being the jump in your insurance rates. (By the way, subsequent offenses may double or triple the costs.) Here's a breakdown: 

  • Court Costs. Fines differ from state to state and county to county. Typically first offense fines range between $250 and $1500.  
  • Legal Fees. Using a lawyer to navigate the system will probably help but (assuming you don't go to trial) will cost approximately $2,000. Of course, there's no expense if you go pro se. Cost: $0 (no lawyer) to $2,000. (Going to trial will likely cost at least $5,000. ) 
  • License Reinstatment. The administrative costs for getting your license back after suspensions vary by state. Expect to pay between $250 and $500. 
  • Substance Abuse/Counseling/Rehabilitation Classes – If these are required in your case, the costs may range from $100 to $500. 
  • Ignition Interlock System. If required, you'll pay an installation fee ($100) and monthly rental fee of approximately $50 to $100 per month. Average time for first offense is 3 months though many states require longer periods. Figure this cost between $0 and $325
  • Increased Insurance costs. After a DUI, you'll be categorized by your insurance company as a high-risk driver. Most insurance companies will raise rates at least $1,000 - $1500 or more annually. This high-risk requirement typically continues for three years, after which the rates drop back down. Expect to pay between $3,000 - $4500 over three years.
  • Loss of Income. Sitting in jail, doing community service, court appearances and remedial services may take you away from your job for anywhere from one to four weeks. The median US income in 2014 was about $52,000 a year. So we're estimating the cost at $1,000 to $4,000.

Conclusion: We estimate that the average cost for a non-injury, non-property damage DUI is between $5,000 and $12,000. Keep in mind that our numbers are on the conservative side. If, for example, your income is higher than average or you live in a state where fines or insurance may be more expensive, costs can quickly head north. 

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